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Lansing Community College President's Office

Inaugural Address

Dr. Brent Knight

As President of

Lansing Community College
Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thank you, Chairperson Smith.

Members of the Board, faculty, staff, students, distinguished guests, members of this great community, friends and family:

I am humbled and honored to be president of Lansing Community College.   And I want to thank you for welcoming me into this great community. 
This inaugural ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate the many successes of Lansing Community College through the years, as well as its promising future.  

Our success is a result of the hard work, dedication and stewardship of our faculty and staff as well as our community partners over the years.  Many of you are here today. This community understands that the mission of LCC is critical to the success of our region and state.   

Community colleges are an important economic driver in communities across the nation. That is one of the reasons why they have held such an ongoing fascination for me.  You could say that I've had a connection to community colleges from the very beginning. 

As you've heard, my mother, Esther, began her collegiate studies at Bay City Junior College in 1931. She taught me a great deal, and her passion for education has translated into my own dedication to community colleges. 

After I earned my bachelor's degree from Ferris, I went on to earn a master's degree in community college teaching from Western Michigan University.  I was fortunate to be named a doctoral Fellow soon after. And, as part of my Mott fellowship work, I became involved in policy development at the newly established Mott Community College. That experience was valuable, as I gained an appreciation of what it takes to build an excellent community college.

Since then, I have served as the president of four community colleges across the nation. My son graduated from an Illinois community college before he transferred to Michigan State University to earn his bachelor's degree. 

Community colleges have touched my life in many ways, and I am delighted to be leading a great college, Lansing Community College.    

LCC was born some 51 years ago at the dawn of the community college movement.  The mission was straightforward -- to serve as the people's college. We would provide access to quality education for everyone.  We would offer programs to meet the needs of local residents and people of all ages, regardless of their life circumstance.  Also, we were designed to meet the needs of local employers and to fulfill the career aspirations of local residents, ultimately improving the quality of lives of thousands.  And we were created to do all of this at a cost that was affordable. It is a goal that is as relevant today as it was a half century ago; many would argue even more so.

We are honored to have our founding president -- a legend -- Dr. Phillip Gannon with us today. 

Dr. Gannon's challenge was to introduce an entirely new educational concept to our community.  Remember, in 1957, a bachelor's degree was not within the reach of everyone. LCC's founders endeavored to grow a community college from the ground up, into a college that would provide access to quality educational opportunities for everyone, regardless of their financial means. 

As LCC has grown and evolved through the last half century, subsequent presidents and leaders have worked hard to maintain a focus on providing education to all, continuing our reputation as the people's college and offering quality education to meet the needs of our residents and regional employers.

It is a responsibility that requires a great deal of dedication and commitment, more so every day. 
Our world and the community we serve are changing rapidly. Energy prices are exceeding our imagination. The investment and finance community is in turmoil.  The automotive industry, which has been the strength of the great state of Michigan, is in dire straights.  And the future of financial aid for our students can no longer be taken for granted.  These, and other recent economic challenges, have profound implications for our college.
At a time when some 90 percent of the fastest-growing jobs require post-secondary education, university costs are becoming out of reach for many.  While financial aid programs are attempting to fill the gap for those who qualify, many families are unable to obtain such assistance.  

Are we approaching a period in our history when only wealthy individuals can afford college?  Will there come a time when the concept that President Gannon and others introduced, opportunity for all, slowly fades away? 

It is a question we face every day and one I am absolutely committed to addressing.

Community colleges are a cornerstone of the economic viability of the regions they serve.  Community colleges MUST continue to be the people's college. 

That means access to all.  And I commit to you that we at Lansing Community College will do everything in our power -- EVERYTHING IN OUR POWER -- to ensure that the educational and affordability principles upon which this college was built will endure.

Our Board of Trustees joins me in my determination and commitment to this mission. Earlier this year, our Board voted not to increase tuition -- one of few in this state to take this bold stand. With decreasing state and local funding levels, it was not an easy decision.  Our Board is determined to preserve access for everyone.

My friend, Terry O'Banion, former president and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College, recently described the complex challenges faced by community colleges today.

“Leadership in a community college in the early years of the 21st century is like dancing with porcupines,” O'Banion said. “All the challenges are prickly ones.”

I have inherited a college renowned for its high-quality liberal studies, practical and effective workforce development, and a college which is supportive of developmental education and rewarding personal enrichment programs. We have much to build on. 

Throughout our history, thousands of students interested in earning a bachelor's degree have started at LCC. They have benefited from our low tuition rates, smaller classes, faculty attention, flexible scheduling and student services.

As the people's college, we will continue to provide students with the college courses necessary to seamlessly transfer to a university.
We will also provide students with the skills needed to get and keep a job.  We have worked hard to build a reputation as a quality provider of education for vital services such as nursing, police, fire and emergency medical services.

And through partnerships with area businesses, Lansing Community College has emerged as the leader in workforce development. We work with some of the largest corporations, like General Motors, and we work with small businesses like Lansing's Cameron Tool Corporation, a specialty supplier to the sheet metal stamping industry.

Our longstanding partnership with Capital Area Michigan Works has led to many successful job training initiatives.  One such effort -- a four-week machine re-tooling program this summer -- was cited by Governor Granholm as an example of how community colleges can help employers through Michigan's No Worker Left Behind program.

As the people's college, we will continue to strive for excellence in our programs.  Our science program offers courses in nanotechnology and molecular biology.  Our innovative film program combines digital media, audio and cinema to prepare students for new jobs coming to our market. 
Our groundbreaking alternative energy program was recently cited in the New York Times. And our information technology programs are growing to meet the industry's ever-changing requirements.

As the people's college, we must continue to ensure that we are offering our courses in formats that meet the needs of our students and employers.  Not everyone can take classes through an entire 13-week semester.  Because of time and money constraints, many need a condensed, fast-track format, online, or in a combined classroom and online format.

For students who want the convenience of staying in the area and earning their four-year degrees, we will continue to enable bachelor's and master's degrees at the University Center in downtown Lansing.

As the people's college, we will intensify our efforts to assure that students are successful in achieving their goals.  

Students come to Lansing Community College for many reasons.  Some want to refresh their knowledge in certain subjects or skills, while others want to take courses for personal enrichment. There are also short-term students who take a course or two and are gone.  We value ALL of these students and we will continue to serve their needs -- because we are the people's college.

But a vast majority of our students attend Lansing Community College to earn an associate's degree or transfer to a university.  We want to identify each student's goal and work with them to assure their success.

To accomplish that, we will strengthen our student success efforts to facilitate student counseling and advising, ensure that we offer user-friendly technology, and make certain that financial aid and other services are readily available and accessible.

In higher education, student success is often closely linked to the services they receive as “customers”  --  if you will -- of the college.  We must ensure that they don't face any barriers that could impede their journey. 

Now, what about the people who want to attend college but lack the necessary skills?   

As the people's college, developmental and high school completion initiatives are part of our mission and we will step up our efforts in those areas.  An ever-increasing number of students who begin at Lansing Community College need to take at least one developmental class in order to get their skills to college level. 

We will continue to strive for excellence to make sure that our students receive the skills they need so they can make rapid progress toward college-level classes.

We must continue to grow our high school completion program.  This initiative is experiencing a dramatic increase in enrollment. Unfortunately, state funding has been cut and many programs have closed their doors. That makes it even more important that we increase our efforts. 

Regardless of these funding cuts, we have an obligation -- a social contract --with this community to meet these fundamental needs.

We will build our GED program as well.  By offering multiple options to achieve a high school education or its equivalency, we are accomplishing our mission to offer quality higher education to all.

* * *

Michigan is in a time of transition.

Moving forward, we will build on the knowledge of our exceptional and talented faculty.  The LCC work ethic is exemplary and the collaborative spirit of our faculty and staff has truly impressed me.

Your contributions have built LCC's reputation of quality education and academic excellence that is known throughout the state, while educating generations of students who have gone on to accomplish great things. We cannot thank you --our faculty and staff -- enough for your contributions to improving the quality of life for thousands of area residents.

* * *

You have heard our challenges.  You have heard our accomplishments.  You have heard our plans.  And these things matter.

THEY MATTER  -- because the people's college, Lansing Community College, is a major economic driver for this region.

THEY MATTER -- because people are struggling financially in low-paying, dead-end jobs or, worse yet, finding themselves with no job at all.

THEY MATTER -- because business people are struggling to identify and obtain the skilled workforce necessary to make their businesses succeed. 

THEY MATTER -- because youngsters are struggling with decisions about jobs, direction, careers and how to achieve their dreams. 

From humble beginnings in 1957, we've become a national leader in community college education with responsibility for the futures of some 32,000 students in our hands.  We must be both mindful of our history and adaptive to an ever-changing world, as together we prepare our students for success.

But one thing I can promise. Lansing Community College was, is and WILL REMAIN the people's college.  And I am deeply honored and proud to be a part of it. 

Thank you.

President's Office at Lansing Community College

President's Office
Administration Bldg
Phone: (517) 483-1851
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